Tag Archives: poetry

All That Glitters – a review

All That Glitters by Halo Quin is a heady mix of poetry and prose, folklore and personal insight. This is a book of re-enchantment. Halo is steeped in folklore and has a powerful personal relationship with the wild and the natural world. At the same time there’s a sweetness to her work, and warmth in it.

It’s the sort of book I wish I’d had in my teens. These are words to cut through the loneliness of being an odd creature, a misfit, a dweller at the margins. I think if you’re carrying a lost child inside you, this book may touch that part of you. I felt it keenly. I remembered that youthful hunger for magic and enchantment, and how hard it is to hang on to a sense of wonder and possibility when there is no obvious place in the world for that part of your soul.

Halo is, I think, one of those rare souls whose child self wasn’t tamed or broken, and who carries her wildness inside her. If you were the sort of child who desperately wanted to be kidnapped by fairies, this book is for you.

More here – https://herbarybooks.com/product/all-that-glitters/


Writing about nature

When I first initiated as a bard, I pledged to use my creativity for the good of the land and for the good of my tribe. (Use of the word ‘tribe’ by white western Pagans is problematic to say the least, but that was the pledge nearly 20 years ago). The principle of making your art as an act of service is a good one, but how does that translate into action?

Writing about nature can be a way of engaging people with the natural world and inspiring them to notice it more and care about it more. If you’ve grown up urban, and never been taught the names of trees or butterflies or wild plants, then it can all be a bit of a mystery, and not in a good way. There’s quite a journey from seeing trees to seeing specific, individual trees with unique characteristics. Equally, it’s quite a journey from seeing some birds, to knowing a bit about those birds and how they live.

One of the things I try to do with poetry is to talk about nature specifically. Bandying the word ‘nature’ about doesn’t get much done – as this blog post already illustrates. It’s not a word that creates engagement. What seems to work best, is precision. A specific tree, an actual encounter, something personal, something experienced.

It can be tempting to make nature into a metaphor for personal experience, but that doesn’t do much to help the land. It fuels the idea of nature as a resource for humans to use if we deploy it in poetry as a way of talking about ourselves all the time. Equally, if the landscape is just a background framing human actors, it is still mostly scenery and mostly something we consume.

If you’d like any of my poetry, there are pdfs (pay what you like) on my ko-fi store – https://ko-fi.com/O4O3AI4T/shop

I was also a finalist in a recent competition to write poetry about urban trees – you can read that here – https://www.treesforcities.org/stories/our-poetree-winners


A poem about living dangerously

It will be legendary

I would live deliciously

Not the safe or quiet life

No certainty, and risk enough.

There have been bruises, breaks

Wounds that left me bloody,

Battered and bereft.

I would drink deep from the cup,

Vine God magic on my lips,

Taste the flesh of my days,

Bite hard into life even as life sinks

Teeth into me. I will pay for this,

In tears and sweat, sleepless nights

Haunted hours reaching after wonder,

Taking leaps of faith in the dark,

Knowing I am bound to fall.

Deliberate in flying too close to the limits

The sun. I will burn for this moment of glory.

I will not be tame or quiet

The taste of taboo sweetness brings

The apple rich fall from grace.

Rejecting ignorance and innocence

For the ecstasy of knowing and experience.

Reaching for pomegranates, goblin fruit

The forbidden, the fairy wine

The merciless delights.

I will live deliciously.


Unromantic poetry

I have a small, ongoing project around writing deliberately unromantic poetry. I’m on a mission to debunk things that are presented as romance, but are really toxic, or bullshit. Here’s the latest.

Refusing to die of a broken heart

I will not drink poison for you

I do not offer my last breath

Nor the blood in my veins.

I will not crawl over broken glass

For you. there will be no proof

Of faith in a death from grief

I will not cut out my heart

To place it in a box for you.

No slashing back of soul and self

To make offerings of wounds.

I will not become smaller for you

There is no romantic splendour

In the fatal cup, the ravaged life

The early death.

This is not romance.

I will not die for you.

I did not promise to suffer.

Tell me to live for you, to endure

To flourish for your sake also.

Love is measured not in torment

But in the co-creating

Of better days.


I will build a house – a poem

I will build a house

I will build a house at the forest’s edge

For the wild girls who loathe hunters

Live by shadow and moonlight, escape artists

Surviving at the margins if they can.

A house with generous windows, secret doors

Many rooms of respite and sanctuary

Places to sleep soundly for the girls

Who will not be tamed or trained

Who come and go at all hours by whim

As sexual or chaste as they desire

And at no man’s bidding.

I will build a house for the girls

Other stories like to kill while lamenting

Their being too good for this world

The girls whose unkempt beauty reads

As a debt to those who would tidy

Them up to screw them over and crush

The lush, untarnished splendour of their souls.

A house for girls with blood on their hands

For witches and sirens. For those who howl

At the moon, and those who root

In the earth, the ephemeral, and filthy alike

Welcome under this roof.

I will grow an orchard, a herb garden

Keep chickens and not become too fond

Of them, just in case.

I will build a house for the unrepentant

Unacceptable girls who neither kneel nor beg

Whose proud, flashing eyes are glorious wild

And I will build a house to shelter

Every woman whose spirit still holds

Some part of the wild girl who was

Punished into hiding deep inside her

And I will build a house.


What If?

What if we planted trees

Our urban spaces aren’t places for people

We get sick and sad, we go mad

Sucking in polluted air from grey streets

We need to leave the cars, make room for leaves

Turn our urban jungle from grim to green

Make it live, make it breathe, be serene.

What if we planted trees?

Scientists in studies the world over

Show us with numbers we need to hear

We’re better people with trees.

We hurt less, suffer less, do less harm

We’re calmer, kinder, cooler in the shade

No need for the air conditioning

That ironically helps us heat the planet.

Safer in the shade, cut down the cancer

Grow more trees. Forest our minds

Towards better mental health.

We need nature to feel whole and well

But what we do to ourselves

Is build hell, deny what gives us life

We make our strife, unhappiness is rife

Pouring tarmac over everything, we wonder why

Our souls are hungry

For a softer way, a gentle route through our days

Walk slowly to your job, enjoy the view

Live a few minutes distance from everything

That makes a daily life for you

Amble there sweetly, saunter beneath trees.

What if we stopped telling stories

About the gadgets we hope will save us

Rescued ourselves from our mistakes

With orchards where car parks used to be

And playground groves for children

Cities where people can live peacefully.

What if we plant more trees?

(Rob Hopkins has been asking ‘What If?’ which led me to write this. More on his website https://www.robhopkins.net/ )


Blackthorn Poetry

This poem came out of some recent divination undertaken on my behalf. I was told that what lay ahead would be blackthorn, and I got to thinking about what that might mean for me.

 

On the Blackthorn Path

 

I walk a blackthorn path

This is a hard way.

The longest, cruellest thorns

Keen to breed infection

When they cut your skin

Pierce your shoes, snag

Your clothes, scratch and wound.

I will bleed on this journey

It demands sacrifice.

You cannot pass through

Blackthorn hedge or spinny

Only take the path suggested

Go where it tells you.

If you would take control

If you would lay a blackthorn hedge

In the old way, it is the hardest

Wood to cut, or bend or tame.

What results is long enduring.

Walk the blackthorn path

Through the first frosts and harvest

Vibrant purple sloes, make magic

With alcohol – there are rewards

On this difficult adventure

Reasons to take so hard a way.

Survive a winter and in spring

The pale, sweet profusion, blackthorn blossom

Waits for those who will travel this far.

Heart torn, soul battered, hurting

I walk the blackthorn path.

I will turn my frost into sweetness

Find strength in my obstinacy,

Learn from the blackthorn

Make what good I can

Honour the unforgiving guardian

Until the very end of the bitter road

No matter what that means.

If you are walking this path

I may find you along the way

However hard the walking

It is easier faced together.

There lies richness in fruit and flowers

And the path with fewest thorns.


What does it mean to unpeel a monster?

The title of my latest poetry collection – How to Unpeel a Monster – reflects something that has lifelong significance for me. It comes from a story about a child born with too many skins, who is monstrous and must be unpeeled to reclaim their human self, and the first poem in the book reflects this.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling monstrous. Too much, too difficult, too demanding, too cold, too sensitive, too emotional, too unemotional – I’ve been called all of this and more. I’ve spent much of my life feeling that I do not properly qualify as a person. As a consequence, I often see myself as someone rigid with defensive layers. I find it hard to trust, to soften myself, to open up to people.

During the period I was working on these poems, my relationships with a number of people changed in significant ways. There were several friends who started making deliberate efforts to come in and unpeel me. Offering safe space and support, accepting me as I am and not finding me monstrous, they helped me change how I think about my monster skins.

I’m still working on that. I don’t know that I need to be entirely unpeeled to reclaim some more acceptable shape. There are days when I feel good enough as I am, and days when I even enjoy being me without feeling that I need to do a lot of work on fixing and improving myself. There are also days when all I can see are my own savage teeth and claws and my unreasonable, unacceptableness.

What do any of us need to change? And are those changes for our benefit, or to comfort, ease or appease someone else? How much pressure is there to take off the unacceptable aspects of self based on what other people will allow and not who you need to be? What if there could be room for me to be all of the things? Hard and soft, furred and feathered, red in tooth, claw and tenderness, monstrous and fragile, strong and vulnerable, broken and unbreakable…

The journey into dealing with what I find monstrous about myself is increasingly a journey of finding that I just need more room for who I am. More spaces where more of me is acceptable. More people who are excited about the aspects of me that people in my history have found too difficult. I need the people who can hold those spaces of acceptance for me. I know I have them. I’m starting to see what it might be like to be able to live as my whole self, unashamed of how messy and complicated some of that can be.

All of my skins are equally real and valid. It’s just a case of what I want to share, and who it makes sense to share that with. Unpeeling is always an option. So is putting on a new and different skin. A tough and protective hide is just as acceptable as a soft, tender underbelly. I have to make space for all of it, and I do not have to make space for the people who might want me to be smaller than I am.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey, unpeeling the fear and making room for the skins.

More about the poetry in this post – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/08/08/how-to-unpeel-a-monster/


Land Songs and Master Jack – a review

Land Songs by Kris Hughes is a collection of 11 poems. For such a small collection, it manages to bring together a very large amount of myth, folklore, landscape and spiritual insight. It was a pleasure to read and is the sort of collection you can comfortably sit down and go through in a single sitting – there’s a sense of relationship between the pieces that very much enables read it in one go.

I am, I realise, always going to be excited about people writing poetry about non-exploitative relationships with the land. There are some landscape love affair poems in this collection, and that delights me. Some of the myth-based material might not make much sense to a reader who is not familiar with the Pagan heritage of the British isles, but, you can always look up the names and fill in the gaps, so it might in that way prove to be an invitation to dig deeper. There are some notes at the front of the collection to help you navigate this material, which is a good inclusion. It’s never easy to be sure whether to let work stand as it is, or to explain but in this case the notes definitely enrich the text.

I can recommend this collection for anyone interested in poetry, I highly recommend it to anyone on the bard path for both the inspiration in it and what you can learn about writing as a bard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master Jack is a short story with strong folklore themes, and a dash of the supernatural. It’s written with deep understanding of folk tradition, and the people involved in it, and with a love and respect for living tradition that delighted me. It manages – as folk traditions often do – to square up to death and difficulty while being fundamentally warm and affirming. It’s a lovely read. As someone who has played creatures in mumming sides, I found it really resonant. I’ve never worked with a horse skull, but I’ve always wanted to.

You can find Land Songs and Master Jack on Kris Hughes’ website – http://www.godeeper.info/shop.html

 


How to Unpeel a Monster

I’ve finally got How to Unpeel a Monster up as a print version in case anyone wants a hard copy.

I gave away a fair few ecopies of this poetry collection earlier in the year. It is available for kindle should you prefer to buy it, but I’m always happy to send out free ebooks. Leave a comment if you want one of those, and I’ll pick up your email address from there.

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown/dp/B08DBZDDBL

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B08D6RX7Z7